Over 10 years of Civil War have seen many developments topped by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition launching a military campaign in 2015 to end the Iran-backed Houthi militias’ control of northern Yemen. Noe, for the first time in many years, Yemenis feel that perhaps there is a chance for a lasting peace.
On 7 April, Yemen’s former interim president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi transferred his powers to an eight-member Presidential Leadership Council, which was sworn in on 17 April in Aden. This took place days after a two-month nation-wide truce went into effect. This truce, the first to hold without serious violations, was renewed again on 1 June.
According to experts on Yemen, the new council led by Al-Alimi is more representative of the people than several previous institutions created since the ouster of former Yemeni president and long-time leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.
Receiving Al-Alimi and six out of the eight members of the newly-created presidential council at the presidential palace, Al-Sisi expressed Cairo’s strong support for the formula that gathered key Yemeni players into a cohesive national entity.
Maintaining unity and consensus among the council members will certainly place Al-Alimi in a better situation in any future negotiations with Houthis aimed at reaching a permanent ceasefire that will hopefully pave the way for an end to the war.
Unfortunately, after over 10 years of war, Yemen has turned into a number of mini-states taking up portions of Yemeni territory. The formation of the new council gives a glimmer of hope that the key players in Yemen are ready to work together in a serious manner, in hope of bringing to an end the long-lasting suffering of the Yemeni people.
According to the latest UN figures, more than 23.4 million people – almost three-quarters of the population – need humanitarian assistance, an increase of 13 per cent from what was already a frightening figure in 2021.
Children continue to stand front and centre in this conflict as some 2.2 million are acutely malnourished. Since 2017, fighting has left 14,000 civilians dead or injured. More than 4.3 million civilians have fled their homes since the Saudi-led Arab Coalition launched the war in 2015, making this the fourth largest internal displacement crisis on the planet.
Egypt is no stranger to Yemen, and many Yemeni streets are named after the late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who despite the ongoing war against Israel at that time, rushed to Yemen’s support in 1962 after a group of young officers there revolted, declaring that they would set their country on the path to modernity and freedom, like other Arab nations.
No wonder then that President Al-Sisi, in a joint news conference with Al-Alimi, should reaffirm Egypt’s full support for the unity, independence, and territorial integrity of the Yemeni state. “The security and stability of Yemen is of great importance to Egypt and the entire Arab world,” he stressed.
Al-Sisi also voiced his support for all efforts aimed at achieving peace in Yemen in line with Yemen’s National Dialogue, and the outcomes of Yemeni consultations held in Riyadh in April under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Al-Sisi reiterated Egypt welcomes the two-month renewal of the truce, voicing his appreciation for the legitimate Yemeni government for respecting its obligations under the terms of the agreement.
In this framework, it was a great relief for many Yemenis that direct flights have finally started between Sanaa and Cairo at the beginning of June. Other vital humanitarian measures, such as allowing fuel shipments into Houthi-held territories, and ongoing talks to end the inhumane Houthi siege of the key Yemeni city of Taiz, are all among the positive outcomes of the political process accompanying the truce.
If both the Yemeni government and Houthi militias continue to respect the agreements mediated by the UN, this will be a positive development that can be built upon to launch a comprehensive political process in Yemen.
Talks between Al-Sisi and Al-Alimi also stressed the need for concerted efforts to protect the security and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait and the Arabian Gulf, noting that this was a vital issue linked to regional and international security and stability.
The discussion also touched on the looming crisis posed by the Safer oil tanker, which holds more than 1.14 million barrels of oil, and has been left exposed to humidity and corrosion at the Red Sea port of Al-Hudayda since 2015. The decaying state of the tanker threatens a major environmental disaster affecting all Red Sea nations. Al-Sisi and Al-Alimi agreed on the urgent need for concerted international efforts to resolve this looming environmental disaster.
The meeting between the leaders of Egypt and Yemen is another step in the right direction confirming that Yemen now has a working government that enjoys the support of many Yemenis, as well as key regional and international players.
A version of this article appears in print in the 16 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.